The Konik (Polish: konik polski) or Polish primitive horse is a small horse, a kind of semi-wild pony, originating in Poland. The Polish word konik (plural koniki) is the diminutive of koń, the Polish word for "horse" (sometimes confused with kuc, kucyk meaning "pony"). However, the name "konik" or "Polish konik" is used to refer to certain specific breeds. Koniks show many primitive features, for example some breeds have the dun coat and dorsal stripe.
In 1936, Professor Tadeusz Vetulani of Poznań University began attempts to breed the recently extinct tarpan back to its original state. To achieve this he used horses from the Biłgoraj area descended from wild tarpans captured in 1780 in Białowieża Forest and kept until 1808 in Zamoyski zoo. These had later been given to local peasants and crossbred with domestic horses. The Polish government commandeered all the koniks that displayed tarpan-like features. The result of this selective breeding program is that semi-wild herds of koniks can be seen today in many nature reserves and parks, and can also be seen in the last refugium in Białowieża Forest.
Vetulani's breeding program is one of several attempts at breeding back the Tarpan. Other programs resulted in the Heck horse.
As it seems genetically very close to the extinct tarpan, the original European wild horse, it has been introduced into many nature reserves in the Netherlands such as the Oostvaardersplassen.
Along with the wisent and the Heck Cattle, the konik are big grazers. They keep the landscape open, and when kept without supplemental winter feeding, they alter the landscape to produce more parklike forest.
In Maastricht, the Netherlands, a herd was released in 1995, in 'de Kleine Weerd', a 12 hectare strip of land (roughly 100 m by 1 km) along the river Meuse. The area is open to the public, but people are advised not to go near the horses because their reaction is unpredictable.
Koniks have also been introduced in Latvia and the United Kingdom because of the success of such programs. Koniks have been introduced into Wicken Fen near Cambridge by the National Trust. Koniks have also been introduced to a number of Nature Reserves in Kent, England by Wildwood Trust (the charity which runs the Wildwood Discovery Park) and Kent Wildlife Trust. These include Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve, Ham Fen National Nature Reserve, Whitehall Meadow, Sandwich Bay and Park Gate Down.
In Germany, also examples are known, e.g. "Wilde Weiden, Die Neuen Wilden" in Westphalia.
The current distribution map of the Konik horse is incompleet. Therefore all information is welcome. Only areas throughout Eurasia larger than 500ha are interesting to be shown on the map.
Formerly throughout Eurasia.
(Equid specialist group, 1996a; Wilson & Reeder, 2005)